I bought this shirt for Hagen for his last Christmas, not knowing it would be his last. Because of his couch surfing ways, his wardrobe was down to a few pair of basketball shorts, tees, one or two sweatshirts, and no coat. As a momma it drove me crazy to see him in shorts in December, and him being out without a coat was an absolute no no. Truth be told, he could have had a closet full of clothes and he probably still would have worn the shorts. Boys.
He was 22 and at the age that most parents give money and just let their kiddos get what they want, but that wasn’t how we did things. Momma knew better. He was doing so well and that spark in his beautiful hazel eyes shined brighter daily as he got stronger and more settled, so to show him I could see how hard he was working (and to get him out of those dang shorts and into a coat) I told him I would take him shopping for Christmas. I set a low budget because I was still leery that he would either misplace or give away the warm clothes to someone he perceived to be in worse need than him. I chose Kohl’s because I knew he could get more bang for my buck there, but truthfully I wanted so badly to take him to the mall and tell him to go crazy. He was doing THAT good, but I wanted to tip toe into it I guess to test the waters.
Hagen also had a budget in mind. The first thing he looked at on every garment he picked up was the price tag, and all the items were put back on the rack. I watched this go on for quite awhile, thinking he was just being picky, so I started showing him things that I knew he would love. He would look at the price and say “Mom, it costs too much.” At one point he was searching for the clearance rack. I have never had to pull teeth to shop for that child like I did that night.
“Hagen, this is my Christmas gift to you. If you like it, get it.”
“Mom, I don’t need it”
“You don’t have to need it. Get it!”
Then it hit me.
I started going back through the store picking up what I had seen him put down, and had that buggy overflowing. Tell me I can’t buy something for you. I dare you.
The spark in his eyes wasn’t the only thing that had found its way back to me. My boy’s enormous heart and concern for his momma had returned as well. This amazing dude was worried about me spending too much money, which only made me want to spend more.
I busted the budget and would have happily bought him the whole store. Levi’s might as well have been Gucci that night, because he was so proud of everything that we walked out with, and so very appreciative. My boy was back and THAT was my Christmas gift that year.
Four months later he was gone, but every. single. thing. I bought him that night remained.
That’s how far he had come, and were it not for Fentanyl, this shirt would be hanging in his closet. Not mine.
It has now been worn more by me than it ever was by him, and each time I wear it, I’m not just reminded of Hagen. I’m reminded of that night. Of his consideration. Of his concern. Of his love for me. The debit to my bank account was actually a credit to the boy I raised.
The shirt has become my grief garment. I don’t wear it because I’m sad. I don’t wear it because I miss him. I wear it as a reminder that he was here, and he was just a beautiful human being. It’s my go-to when I don’t feel like fussing with trying to put an outfit together. The sleeves are too long and it fits more like a coat, but it’s incredibly comfortable and equally comforting. I will eventually have to retire it, lest I wear it out, but until then, if you see me out and about in it, just know plaid is the new black for me. One is a representation of mourning, sorrow and ashes, and one is a representation of the beauty from those ashes to Hagen’s momma.